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Using Databases

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Accessing the Databases from Home Search Tips Help Guides Getting Research Assistance


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Database Basics

What is a Database?

A database is a collection of information stored in an electronic format that can be searched by a computer. The information can be, for example, the bibliographic records in a library catalog or the articles in a research (article) database. Databases are composed of records. Each article in a research database is a record. Records are composed of fields. For example, the fields of a database article (record) include the article’s title, author, source or journal name, abstract, and subjects. These fields can be searched with field codes such as ti, au, so, jn, ab, and su.

Access the library databases here!

Important things to know about databases:

  • When you search an article database, you are not searching the Web as you would with a tool such as Google.
  • Databases produced by the same company (e.g., EBSCO) typically use the same search interface (screen) and the same commands such as Boolean operators, proximity operators, truncation symbols, wildcards, and field codes (These commands are explained in the Help section of databases and in the sample searches that start at the bottom of this page.).
  • Databases produced by different companies (e.g., EBSCO vs. Wilson) have different search interfaces (screens). Also, even though these databases let you use the same types of commands (e.g., proximity operators, truncation symbols, wildcards), specific commands can vary. Check the database’s Help section.

Other Important Terms:

  • Article: A written essay or report on a subject; an independent part of a larger publication such as a journal, magazine, newspaper, or encyclopedia.
  • Library Catalog: A database (either online or on paper cards) listing and describing the books, journals, government documents, audiovisual and other materials held by a library. Various search terms allow you to look for items in the catalog.3 Also called library catalog or OPAC.

How are databases different from the Library Catalog? Or an internet search engine?

  • The library catalog only includes items in the library's collection, for example: Books, e-Books, Print Magazines, Audio/Visual Materials, etc. When you search the article databases, you are searching a collection that is maintained by a third-party. The library pays for access to that collection, it does not own the collection.
  • When you search the library’s article databases, you are not searching the (“visible”) web.
  • Google does not search the library’s article databases.
  • The techniques you can use to search article databases are much more sophisticated than Google’s.
  • Databases contain authoritative, accurate, reliable information written by people who know what they’re talking about. This is not always the case with information you retrieve with Google.
  • The results from Google and other search engines include sites that paid a fee to be included. This is not the case for the results of a library database search. See this site: searchenginewatch.com/webmasters/article.php/2167941
  • Access to databases is restricted to specific people by legally binding contracts. This is not true for Google.

Accessing Databases from Home

To access the library’s article databases from home, follow these steps:

1.    Go to the Lone Star College System Libraries’ home page at www.lonestar.edu/library.

2.    In the blue, vertical bar on the left, click “Research Databases.” This takes you to a page where the databases are grouped into several subjects.  Also notice the links to “Find Databases by Title” and “Search for magazines, newspapers, and journals by title.”

3.    Click the database you want to use from either the subject or title list.

4.    You'll then see the screen below.  In the box after "Barcode Number," type the 14-digit barcode number (without spaces) on the back of your student ID.

5.    Click “Login.”

6.    You should then end up at the opening screen of the database you chose.

NOTE:

Your student ID must be activated to access the databases from home.  To activate your ID, either call 936-273-7387 or bring your card to the Circulation Desk in the library, the desk where you check out books.  If you need help using a database, call the Reference Desk at 936-273-7390.

Databases Searching Tips

Boolean Operators

  • Boolean operators provide ways to combine terms (words) in a search.
  • These operators are And, Or, and Not.
  • And and Not cause fewer results to be retrieved, so they narrow a search.
  • Or causes more results to be retrieved, so it broadens a search; it’s also good for joining synonyms.
  • And combines search terms so that each search result contains all of the terms. For example, travel and Europe finds articles that contain both travel and Europe.
  • Or combines search terms so that each search result contains at least one of the terms. For example, college or university finds results that contain either college or university, possibly both.
  • Not excludes terms so that search results do not contain any of the terms that follow it. For example, television not cable finds results that contain television but not cable.
  • Sample Searches

    (operators do not have to be capitalized)

    cloning AND ethics cars OR automobiles
    dogs NOT collies (job OR career) NOT engineer
    (mouse OR rat) AND trap theater OR theatre

Truncation

  • Truncation allows you to create searches using words that have various endings.
  • In the EBSCO databases (but maybe not in others), the truncation symbol is the asterisk (*). It cannot be the first character in a search term. Truncation usually broadens a search.
  • To use truncation, type the root of a search term and replace the ending with an *. Your search will look through the database for all forms of that word. For example, type comput* to search for results containing any of these words: compute, computed, computes, computer, computers, computing, computation, computations, or computational.
  • Sample Searches

    cloning AND ethic* (job* OR career*) NOT engineer*
    model* N3 railroad* comput*

Wildcards

  • Wildcards allow you to create searches using terms that have unknown characters or multiple spellings.
  • In the EBSCO databases (but maybe not in others), the wildcard symbol is the question mark (?). It cannot be the first character in a search term.
  • To use the wildcard, type your search term(s) and replace each unknown character with a ?. Your search will look through the database for results containing your term(s) with each ? replaced by a single character. For example, type ne?t to search for results containing neat, nest, or next. The database does not look for results containing net because there must be a single character at the wildcard’s location.
  • Sample Searches

    theat?? (to look for results containing either theater or theatre)
    wom?n (to look for results containing either woman or women)
    behavio?r (to look for results containing behaviour, the British spelling of behavior)

Getting Help for Specific Databases

Most databases provide a link to the Help Guide within the database interface. If you have trouble navigating a database, contact a librarian for assistance.

We have provided links to the most commonly requested guides below:

EBSCOHost Guide Gale Literature Resource Center Guide Gale Cengage Learning Guide
JSTOR ProQuest Guide (pdf) Science Online

Getting research assistance . . .

Reference Desk

Email: mclr@lonestar.eduPhone: 936 273 7390



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